By Andy Sonnenberger, Columnist
The #HereAtIWU campaign struck a chord with me, as I hope it did with most of you. But I have to admit, I am not surprised by any of the stories posted in the Dugout. Currently, violence against women is a national issue that is not being addressed.
A recent article by Rebecca Solnit argued, “We have far more than 87,000 rapes in [the United States] every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident. We have dots so close they’re splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them or names that stain.”
Violence against women is a pattern, and it would be foolish to believe violence of this type does not occur at Illinois Wesleyan University. But the fact that it does occur at IWU allows each person on campus to take action.
Initial action is often the greatest barrier to social change, but there are a few changes in thought and education that can be made here on campus.
For education, there are two events that first-year students are required to attend that deal with sexual assault, “Real World 101” and the sexual assault seminar separated by gender. After these two events, there is little discussion on the topic of sexual violence in a formal setting on campus.
But the problem did not stop and will not stop until an active discussion begins. While #HereAtIWU is a good first step, we need to go further.
There are also problems beyond lacking an active discussion, and my best example actually comes directly from the sexual assault seminar I had my first year.
At the end of the presentation, a student raised his hand and asked something along the lines of, “What if a girl lies about you raping her?”
Looking back on it, the question had a deep ignorance and even arrogance, but also implies a cultural difference between what men and women are taught about rape.
Men are taught how to not to get themselves into a situation where they can be accused of rape.
They are not taught to respect women, where violence towards women should not be an option.
While men are being taught this, women are being trained on how to avoid being raped.
Again, IWU is not innocent to perpetuating this gap. A recent alcohol awareness poster contained advice for women on how not to get themselves assaulted when they go drinking.
Notice that there was not a poster telling men, “When you’re drunk, don’t take advantage of women,” or, “Just because a woman is drunk doesn’t mean you can take advantage of her,” or, more unsubtly, “Don’t drug a woman’s drink.”
This dichotomy in education will not disappear overnight, but on a campus of 2,000, it is possible to influence change more directly. The first step is discussion, but the long term goal is harder to obtain – teach men to respect women and keep everyone accountable for the actions of their peers in matters of violence.